Does AI belong in matchmaking?

For the first time since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking these numbers in 1976, there are more single Americans than people who are married… 124.6 million American adults [are single].

Mythili Rao, PRI

This implies two things. We’ve experienced a massive cultural shift from the 20th century. And, more importantly, the opportunity to serve these singles is huge.

For the past decade, we’ve heard the good and bad stories of online dating from services like, OkCupid, and Tinder – many of which are owned by Match Group (brands totaling around 45). In reality, though, Match Group claims to serve just 10% of the global singles market, which is estimated at 600 million.

In other words, there’s a lot of singles out there that could benefit from technology’s help. And who else is more fit for this opportunity than the company that digitally indexed over 2 billion people? Yep, Facebook is considering a matchmaking app.

Facebook has been light on actual details but says the opt-in feature will match users with people they aren’t already friends with, and that users will be able to create a separate dating profile that friends won’t be able to see.

Leigh Gallagher, Fortune

Although most of the existing online matchmaking sites already employ algorithms to pair people, we know that Facebook has algorithms like none other. If any company could create an algorithm that could accurately predict chemistry between two absolute strangers, I’d put my money on Facebook.

On the pro side, digital matchmaking actually works. I know a few happy couples that met digitally. Zuckerberg claims that ⅓ of US marriages started online. And any improvement to the accuracy of matchmaking is an improvement to the happiness of people seeking companionship.

On the con side, do we want involvement from Big Tech in such a personal area of our lives? Leigh Gallagher points out:

Users have concerns over both privacy and engaging in dating activities in the same place where they share updates with family and friends.

When it comes to algorithms affecting dating (and reproduction), I’m more intrigued by digital contraception such as Natural Cycle. Essentially, it’s an algorithmic app that uses daily temperature readings to inform women of their menstrual cycles. With no pills or shots, it’s a natural approach to family planning that (I’m toldbyladyYouTubers) is very effective. Oh yeah, and it’s the first app to be certified as a birth control method.

Like Natural Cycle, we want digital solutions that don’t tamper with what’s natural. Arguably, AI matchmaking affects our own abilities to connect with other people, which isn’t a good thing.

Imagine an algorithm trained on half a billion daters. It would become a very powerful tool in a very short period of time.

Does AI belong in matchmaking?